I was on Long-uh Island last weekend. Whenever I go to L.I. I insist on at least one diner experience. The Diner experience doesn’t really exist in the south. We try occasionally, but our efforts are more nostalgia n’ burgers, rather than the multifaceted-multi-paged-multi-itemed honest-to-God, diner.
I always order moussaka (and an egg cream for dessert). Occasionally I’ll see moussaka on a menu here in town, and some of the attempts are not really too bad, but there’s nothing like the real deal. I’ll leave it to the culinary gurus to explain what goes into moussaka, but eggplant and tomato sauce are two key elements.
I order moussaka because diner chefs know how to cook moussaka, and I love the many tastes that tease through the layers. But, I also order moussaka for another less gustatory reason.
Thirty years ago I was falling for this woman in a big way. We both lived in Brooklyn. We both loved to eat at a restaurant named ‘Z’ on Union Square in Manhattan. We were poor and you could order some seriously tasty gyros for cheap-o, and when you were a little more flush, you could order the moussaka.
It was springtime but I was falling, reeled by love. I had to leave for one week on a fund-raising trip (part of the fun of being a social worker for a non-profit). Each day away from that woman was sheer agony. By the end of the week, my future became clear. When I returned to the city, we met at ‘Z’. I never asked for her hand because we had already wordlessly passed that point and we both somehow knew it. The only issue left was the date of the wedding. The moussaka was a golden flavoring to a perfect day.
Nearly 30 years later, I always order moussaka when I visit New York.